Although not complacent — and certainly not guaranteed — the Hood River Valley High School varsity girls cross country team is looking beyond next weekend’s Columbia River Conference championship, focusing more keenly on the following weekend’s OSAA 5A State Championship, where the team hopes to improve from last season’s fifth-place finish and put another standout young runner atop the podium.
Holding six of the top 10 CRC times so far this season, including Sascha Bockius’ league-leading 18:21.0, the HRV girls will be the clear favorite going into the conference meet, to be held Oct. 26 in Pendleton. They’ll use the opportunity as a stepping stone to the state meet, boosting times and invaluable confidence in anticipation of the all-out 5,000-meter season finale Nov. 2 at Lane Community College in Eugene.
For the varsity boys, the outlook at the district meet is good, although they’ll likely have a tough fight with Hermiston and Pendleton to see which two teams advance to state and which two hang up their spikes for the year. Anchoring the conference’s fastest times this season are two Bulldog seniors, Alejandro Cisneros and Jose Macias, who have been the only CRC runners to break the 16-minute barrier (Cisneros, 15:26.6, Macias, 15:49.7). Behind those two, HRV senior Ricardo Castillo and sophomore Justin Crosswhite hold the third- and fourth-fastest times.
“The girls are clearly the district champs, so we need to have them focusing on placing at the state meet,” coach Kristen Uhler commented after the team returned from Saturday’s George Fox XC Classic at Willamette Mission State Park. “The goal is to maintain focus, stay healthy, keep improving, win a CRC title and place at state. They believe they can fulfill those goals. The boys aren’t taking anything for granted; they’re gearing up for a peak performance at Pendleton (districts).”
Uhler said Saturday’s meet was exceptionally competitive, and that both boys and girls squads raced in the elite division to get a “reality check” after finishing first (boys) and second (girls) in the middle division of last weekend’s Oxford Invitational.
“After our confidence-building performance last weekend in Bend we needed a reality check, so we bumped up to the Elite division,” Uhler said. “It is by far the most competitive meet in Oregon; much more competitive than even the state meet. We raced the elite division and the JV raced in the higher Gold division.”
Uhler said the varsity girls ran well, using the flat and fast one-mile-loop course to their advantage and posting all-time personal records — everyone on the team — on their way to an eighth-place finish out of 17 teams. The boys finished 15th out of 20 teams, posting six all-time PRs against a field of 141 runners. Bend’s powerhouse running program, Summit High School, won both boys and girls races by an impressive margin and look to repeat as both boys and girls team state champions in a couple weeks.
Leading the way for the girls team, Bockius finished 12th overall with an 18:21.9 personal record while the race winner, Allie Ostrander of Kenai Central, Alaska, posted a blistering 16:47.58 time. Of the Oregon 5A girls in the race, three finished faster (one from Cleveland and two from Summit).
Ricardo Castillo led for the varsity boys with his fastest-ever result of 16:23.7, good enough for 40th place, while sophomore teammate Justin Crosswhite was fast on his heels just 13 seconds later to finish in 57th.
Running in the Gold level of the junior varsity race, the Hood River boys were 12th out of 21 and the girls were 11th out of 17. Abby Kinoshita, Miguel Cuevas and Torbjoern Joerstad posted the fastest times for their teams.
HRV runners travel to Cleveland on Wednesday for a final tune-up race before taking the next 10 days off from competition to prepare for the CRC meet.
George Fox results
Varsity girls: Sascha Bockius, 12th, 18:21.9; Lauren Robinson, 58th, 20:00.3; Sophia Marble, 59th, 20:03.6; Denali Emmons, 83rd, 20:50.8; Kailee McGeer, 88th, 20:58.1;Daisy Dolan, 92nd, 21:07.1; Althea Dillon, 114th, 21:40.9;
Varsity boys: Ricardo Castillo, 40th, 16:23.7; Justin Crosswhite, 57th, 16:36.1; Carlos Chairez, 92nd, 17:14.9
Quinn Fetkenhour, 97th, 17:21.0; Jorge Cuevas, 102nd, 17:22.7; Nils Engbersen, 103rd, 17:26.9; Charlie Sutherland, 120th, 17:44.2